“How to Adjust Your Communications Strategy for the Current Market”

The FCS has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with global comms and marketing agency Cognito. During the pandemic and resultant market volatility, Cognito has been publishing regular insights especially relevant to financial marketers. We’re delighted to share this article for comms professionals.

The Cognito team has collectively prepared some advice that can help guide your communications over the next weeks and months.

Adjust timing and messaging for planned announcements

Increasing editorial pressure to cover the most relevant industry news as it relates to Covid-19 means announcements that would normally garner media attention could get lost. If an announcement is not business or market critical, consider delays or adjusting the message of the release. Not only will this mean it gets more attention at the time of release, it also avoids your business appearing tone-deaf to larger market issues.

Here’s an example. Putting out a media alert that says "We've released Version 3.1 of our advisory platform," might seem random. Instead if adjusted to focus on additional options for secure advisor-client communication, this can seem vital in the current environment.

Strong media relationships are more important than ever. Reporters with shared history are more likely to respond to emails, be a sympathetic ear and provide advice about what information they are looking to provide to their readership. They’re unafraid to give trusted hands honest discussion about what they can report on and why. This goes across channels – we’re speaking to reporters on Zoom, WhatsApp, WeChat, Twitter, Slack, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn and even a good old fashioned phone call. This respect needs to be mutual – don’t waste their time and definitely incorporate their feedback. 

Keep tabs on the media landscape

The media relies on experts to help them understand how Covid-19 is unfolding industry by industry. But with the stakes higher than ever, reporters will be looking for facts and data to back up opinions. 

Media monitoring and social media listening tools are vital. The most useful sources will understand the current conversation – including what other people in the sector have been saying on topics. Are you the first person to propose moving an important regulatory deadline back a year or part of a growing chorus? Knowing this matters. Informed spokespeople give better interviews and typically get more quotes.

Identify and plan for post-Covid media opportunities

Many companies do not have a voice in this current newscycle – and that is fine. Use this time to anticipate and plan for the next news cycle, where you can showcase your organization’s thought leadership. We expect that as a light at the end of the tunnel emerges, reporters will pivot to writing about the lasting impact Covid-19 may have on business strategy across every individual industry. Get creative, and think about the potential long-term impact that learnings during this period may have on how your industry is going to evolve, or how shifts in corporate culture may impact how business is done.

Forget what’s always been done

Many are already talking about the ‘new normal.’ Social distancing, event cancellations and more are impacting the day-to-day techniques of doing business with journalists. But this also makes it a good time to evolve. These are some of the necessary changes we expect to see in media relations over the coming weeks, months, and maybe years:

  • Virtual media tours and 1-to-1 video interviews
  • Increased use of social media for reporter engagement
  • Iterative content –update the same piece of thought leadership as new information becomes available 
  • Ongoing auditing of peers’ and competitors’ external and owned channel comms
  • Interest in raw data from firms that can be sent in close to real time – a chart or some figures, even if there is no developed narrative. Consider how turnaround times on approvals for such things can be accelerated.

Evolve your crisis communications plan

For many, this will have been the first road test of a crisis comms plan (or finding out what it’s like to operate without one). Remember these plans are guides, not train tracks, so as the situation changes, so should your documents. Revisit, review and update. Put aside time after the outbreak to access what worked and what to improve for next time. 

Here are five questions every business needs to ask:

  • Have you developed proactive and responsive messaging?
  • Are your spokespeople media-trained for this new environment?  
  • Are you prepared to conduct retrospective reviews of your crisis comms function?
  • Do you have a plan in place for executive communications? Who’s managing and writing?
  • Have you evaluated and adjusted your internal comms function? 

For more insights from Cognito, check out their Crisis Digest series, available at www.cognitomedia.com.